On Feeding the Heart and Soul
Food & the Human Spirit
Words from the Food Revolution Summit:
In the past thirty years, Geneen has worked with hundreds of thousands of people to use food as a doorway towards consciousness and healing. Her many popular books include the runaway bestseller Women Food and God. Highlights included:
“In my 20s with extreme dieting I got down to 82 pounds. But with every diet, there’s an equal and opposite binge. I went on an extreme diet, and then I doubled my weight in a couple months and became suicidal. If you believe you’re not worthy of the life you’ve been given, then you take what you can in any form you can get it in. So I took food in that way.”
“Eventually I decided to try living as if I was worth it. Living as if I was worth a basic amount of kindness. And my life changed.”
“Chances are, if you treat yourself with disrespect, that you’ll also treat other people like that. If you feel like you’re not getting your basic needs met, your precious self isn’t being cared for, then you’ll be less likely to care about the Earth and the impact of your food on the Earth.”
“I find that people’s inner dialogue with themselves about their relationship with food is merciless. We really need kindness. There’s a core belief that the only way I will change is if I force and punish myself. And that is not how people change.”
“Just because you’re working and living in an insane culture doesn’t mean that you need to be insane.”
“Most of our thoughts are based on our history and our conditioning. Most of us follow instructions given to us 10 or 20 or 50 years ago by people we wouldn’t ask for street directions today. No matter how old or young you are, change is possible. It’s really possible. This moment, this very second, matters in terms of where you are placing your attention.”
An excerpt from her testimony:
Ocean Robbins: Welcome to the Food Revolution Summit, where we explore how you can heal your body and your world with food! This is Ocean Robbins and I am joined by my dad, John Robbins in welcoming our guest Geneen Roth. In the past thirty years Geneen Roth has worked with hundreds of thousands of people using meditation, inquiry and a set of seven eating guidelines that she sees as the foundation of natural eating. Geneen has appeared on many national television shows including the Oprah show, 20/20, NBC Nightly News, CBS Early Show and Good Morning America. She has written monthly columns in Good Housekeeping Magazine and Prevention Magazine. She is the author of nine books including The New York Times bestseller, Women, Food and God, Lost and Found, and When Food is Love. She is a beacon of what it means to bring consciousness to our relationship with food and has inspired so many people to look at food choices and relationship with food as a doorway towards self-knowledge and towards healing and towards transformation. Geneen, we are just so excited to have you here with us. Here to interview you is my dad, John Robbins.
Geneen Roth:Thank you Ocean. Thank you John, thank you for having me.
Geneen Roth: Right, of course. Well what I have only told you this far is about the madness and the self-loathing. When I was at the depth of the suffering, and it really was suffering, and I think many, many, many people would define their relationship with food and their bodies and what that has to do with their psyches and their lives as suffering, when I was at the depth of that I had executed a plan to kill myself. It was a couple of days away and I knew how and when and where I was going to do it, and I don’t know exactly how this happened. The Sufi’s call it sort of the dazzling darkness. There was a moment where I was sitting on the floor of a bookstore obsessing about killing myself where I understood in a flash that the one thing I had never done in the 17 years that I had gained and lost over 1,000 pounds, the one thing I had never done was become curious about my relationship with food. I had never used my relationship with food as a doorway into understanding how food was sort of a stand in for my feelings and for particularly feelings that I felt like I wasn’t allowed to have or places in myself that I couldn’t express any other way that I would then express through eating.
So there was a way that I had felt like I had given up on myself a long time ago. I felt at my core that I was damage and that I was not loveable and that if someone had scratched away at the surface of me, of all the sort of top layers of the effervescence and the effusiveness and the intelligence and all of that, that what they would find was someone who was doomed and damaged. There was no way of changing that. I believed there was absolutely no way of changing that, that that is who I was.
So food, for many, many years became the only sweetness that I had. The only way in addition to having sweetness in my life that I could express the despair that I felt about who I was and about what I believed was my inability to change that. And so the fact that I just kept on getting bigger and bigger and bigger, I realized it was a way that I was in many ways expressing that I had given up on myself, that I felt like I couldn’t have what I really wanted which was a sense of belonging here and being welcomed here on this earth and this sense that I was worthwhile as a human being. If you can’t have that and if you believe that you are not worthy of the very life you have and that you have been given, then you take what you can get and you take it in any form that you can get it in. I took it in the form of food and at the same time used food to express the despair. I didn’t realize all of that in that moment of sitting on the floor of the bookstore. But I did understand that I had never, ever lived as if, which is what I started doing after I lived as if my relationship with food made sense and tried to understand the code language of it.
It was as if my relationship with food was like brail and I had never been taught to read with my fingers. I was a blind person. I had never been taught to read with my fingers but somehow I understood that if I could teach myself to decode the language then I would understand what I was trying to say, both to myself and to the people around me and that I would also find more effective ways to give to myself and to nourish myself then food which although it was also giving to me, it was also hurting me at the same time.
So that was the beginning. I started the very next day after that I started asking myself when I was hungry and what I was hungry for. So I gave myself a couple of weeks to do this. When you have given up and you are ready to kill yourself, there is not much to lose by trying this. I gave myself a couple of weeks to follow my hunger and my satisfaction and also become curious about myself. In those days it was living as if I was worth it, living as if I was worth a basic amount of kindness because the harshness and the cruelty and the violence that I directed toward myself really were staggering, the way that I talked to myself. I would not allow myself to talk to myself like that for those couple of weeks and that in combination with feeling like I didn’t need to diet anymore gave me the feeling that; “Wow, I might actually belong here on this earth.” There was a feeling of being let out of prison and a feeling like I wasn’t going to be punished by some big mother in the sky if I ate the wrong thing on a particular day. That I could actually trust this being that I was. So that sort of gives you the sense of the beginning.
John Robbins:It certainly does and it is a very profound transition from food as an expression of despair in an unconscious way to becoming curious about your relationship to food which is, I am hearing, what you did. And finding in these profound issues of whether you are worthy of love and kindness and care and nourishment or not, what are the real hungers underneath your food desires? I am thinking of something that you have written that has always stayed with me. I find it fascinating, I find it provocative. You wrote, “The way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive, no matter how sophisticated or wise or enlightened you believe you are, how you eat tells all.”